Colorado is “a mile closer to space,” and that mile seems to be making a difference.
With the second-largest aerospace economy in the country, we are home to 180 aerospace companies. Additionally there are more than 500 companies and suppliers that provide products and services to support the industry, bringing direct and indirect employment supporting the aerospace industry to 190,880 workers.
How did Colorado become such a key player in the space of space? It’s 5280 altitude isn’t the beginning of the story. (Hint: One mile doesn’t make much difference. Most space launches still happen from Cape Canaveral, FL.) However, its geography does.

In the 1950s Colorado was selected because of its  strategic central location to build an intercontinental ballistic missile. In 1955, Lockheed Martin Space Systems (under the name of The Glenn L. Martin Company) set up shop in southwest Denver. A few years later, Colorado’s Air Force established itself in Colorado Springs. The rest is both history, and history in the making.
In 2019, Colorado remains a strategic location in the aerospace industry for large corporations and start-ups alike; though 70 years later, strategic location is less about vulnerability to enemy attack, and more about all that Colorado offers. Colorado has a highly skilled workforce, top-ranked research universities (including the University of Colorado Boulder and the U.S. Air Force Academy), relatively low business costs, and the right mix of industry, government, and community stakeholders that have a vested interest in advancing the field.
Denver South is helping companies get to space. Here’s how, and why it’s good for the region.

Companies making headlines

More than 20 percent of all aerospace employment in the nine-county Denver region is in Denver South, according to the Denver South Economic Development Partnership’s Industry Cluster Profile.
Just like Colorado’s central location helped it to be the choice location for aerospace companies years ago,  Denver South’s central location between Colorado Springs (where the Department of Defense has military installations), and the Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, makes it an ideal location.
Companies that call the region home include United Launch Alliance, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and UP Aerospace Inc., amongst many others, and they are doing big things.
Making headlines just recently, NASA selected United Launch Association’s Atlas V vehicle to launch the Lucy mission, which will be the first mission to Jupiter’s swarms of Trojan asteroids. Sierra Nevada Corp. is working on the Dream Chaser, a space craft that could eventually carry people, has its first launch scheduled for late 2020. (The vehicle will be built at the Louisville, CO facility.) And UP Aerospace Inc. is developing fast-paced missions for NASA with an all-solid propellant named Spyder.

Help wanted: aerospace and job opportunities

The initiatives happening here are exciting, and they make for a lot of well-paying work. The average aerospace engineer makes a yearly salary of $129,550, with the payroll of Colorado’s aerospace industry today adding up to $3.2 billion. The field requires many types of engineers, including design, materials, systems, and software, as well as other scientists.
But, aerospace also needs more than engineers. According to a recent survey by Leading2Lean, there is a lack of awareness about job opportunities and advancements in modern manufacturing, especially among Millennials. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these jobs pay on-average almost three times the federal minimum wage for production and nonsupervisory employees.
As it stands, these jobs will be increasingly in-demand. Colorado ranks fifth among states for attractiveness for aerospace manufacturing companies, a number that’s been on the rise since 2013, according to Pricewaterhouse Coopers. That means, there’s lots of opportunity for companies and skilled workers alike.
For more information, check out the Denver South Economic Development Partnerships’ Industry Profile on Aerospace.